Lamentations 4:8
Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin sticks to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick.
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(8) Their visage is blacker . . .—We look, as it were, on the two pictures: the bloom and beauty of health, the wan, worn, spectral looks of starvation.

4:1-12 What a change is here! Sin tarnishes the beauty of the most exalted powers and the most excellent gifts; but that gold, tried in the fire, which Christ bestows, never will be taken from us; its outward appearance may be dimmed, but its real value can never be changed. The horrors of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem are again described. Beholding the sad consequences of sin in the church of old, let us seriously consider to what the same causes may justly bring down the church now. But, Lord, though we have gone from thee in rebellion, yet turn to us, and turn our hearts to thee, that we may fear thy name. Come to us, bless us with awakening, converting, renewing, confirming grace.Their visage ... - Their form (their whole person, see 1 Samuel 28:14)... as in the margin. See Job 30:30.

It is withered, it is become like a stick - Or, It has become dry like a piece of wood.

8. blacker than … coal—or, "than blackness" itself (Joe 2:6; Na 2:10).

like a stick—as withered as a dry stick.


They that in the prosperity of the city were fair, plump, and ruddy, look now black for want of fit nourishment, and through sorrow and grief; insomuch that those who before knew them by their countenances, garbs, and habits, did not now know them. And by reason of the famine (for he speaketh with relation to the famine during the siege) they are almost starved, their skin is withered and hard, and even sticketh to their bones. Their visage is blacker than a coal,.... Or, "darker than blackness"; or, "dark through blackness" (y); by reason of the famine, and because of grief and trouble for themselves and their friends, which changed their complexions, countenances, and skins; they that looked before as pure as snow, as white as milk, as clear as pearls, as polished as sapphire, now as black as charcoal, as blackness itself:

they are not known in the streets; not taken notice of in a distinguished manner; no respect shown them as they walk the streets, as used to be; nay, their countenances were so altered, and their apparel so sordid, as not to be known by their friends, when they met them in public:

their skin cleaveth to their bones; have nothing but skin and bone, who used to be plump and fat:

it is withered, it is become like a stick; the skin wrinkled and shrivelled up, the flesh being gone; and the bone became like a stick, or a dry piece of wood, its moisture and marrow being dried up.

(y) "obscurior ipsa nigredine", Tigurine version; "magis quam nigredo vel carbo", Vatablus; "prae caligines", Calvin; "ex nigredine", Piscator.

Their {e} visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick.

(e) They who were before most in God's favour are now in greatest abomination to him.

8. blacker than a coal] lit. as mg. darker than blackness.

Their skin cleaveth to their bones] Cp. Job 19:20.Verse 8. - Their visage is blacker than a coal; rather, their appearance is darker than blackness - one of the hyperboles which seem to indicate that the poem was not written at the very moment of the calamity described (comp. Job 30:30). Not known in the streets. Another point of contact with the Book of Job (Job 2:12). Their skin, etc. Again we must compare the lamentations of Job (Job 19:20; Job 30:30). Psalm 102:5 may also be quoted; for the second half of the verse is toe short unless we insert "to my skin" before "to my flesh." The misery that has come on the inhabitants of Jerusalem is a punishment for their deep guilt. The description given of this misery is divided into two strophes: for, first (Lamentations 4:1-6), the sad lot of the several classes of the population is set forth; then (Lamentations 4:7-11) a conclusion is drawn therefrom regarding the greatness of their sin.

Lamentations 4:1-6

The first strophe. Lamentations 4:1. The lamentation begins with a figurative account of the destruction of all that is precious and glorious in Israel: this is next established by the bringing forth of instances.

Lamentations 4:1-2

Lamentations 4:1, Lamentations 4:2 contain, not a complaint regarding the desolation of the sanctuary and of Zion, as Maurer, Kalkschmidt, and Thenius, with the lxx, assume, but, as is unmistakeably declared in Lamentations 4:2, a lamentation over the fearful change that has taken place in the fate of the citizens of Zion. What is stated in Lamentations 4:1 regarding the gold and the precious stones must be understood figuratively; and in the case of the "gold that has become dim," we can as little think of the blackening of the gilding in the temple fabric when it was burnt, as think of bricks (Thenius) when "the holy stones" are spoken of. The בּני ציּון (inhabitants of Zion), Lamentations 4:2, are likened to gold and sacred stones; here Thenius would arbitrarily change בּני into בּתּי (houses, palaces). This change not merely has no critical support, but is objectionable on the simple ground that there is not a single word to be found elsewhere, through all the chapter, concerning the destruction of the temple and the palaces; it is merely the fate of the men, not of the buildings, that is bewailed. "How is gold bedimmed!" יוּעם is the Hophal of עמם, to be dark, Ezekiel 28:3, and to darken, Ezekiel 31:8. The second clause, "how is fine gold changed!" expresses the same thing. שׁנא equals שׁנה, according to the Chaldaizing usage, means to change (oneself), Malachi 3:6. The growing dim and the changing refer to the colour, the loss of brilliancy; for gold does not alter in substance. B. C. Michaelis and Rosenmller are too specific when they explain that the gold represents populus Judaicus (or the potior populi Hebraei pars), qui (quae) quondam auri instar in sanctuario Dei fulgebat, and when they see in אבּני קדשׁ an allusion to the stones in the breast-plate of the high priest. Gold is generally an emblem of very worthy persons, and "holy stones" are precious stones, intended for a sacred purpose. Both expressions collectively form a figurative description of the people of Israel, as called to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. Analogous is the designation of the children of Israel as אבּני נזר, Zechariah 9:16 (Gerlach). השׁתּפּך, to be poured out (at all the corners of the streets), is a figurative expression, signifying disgraceful treatment, as in Lamentations 2:11. In Lamentations 4:2 follows the application of the figure to the sons (i.e., the citizens) of Zion, not merely the chief nobles of Judah (Ewald), or the princes, nor children in the narrowest sense of the word (Gerlach); for in what follows mention is made not only of children (Lamentations 4:3, Lamentations 4:4), but also of those who are grown up (Lamentations 4:5), and princes are not mentioned till Lamentations 4:7. As being members of the chosen people, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem have been held "dear," and "weighed out with gold," i.e., esteemed as of equal value with gold (cf. Job 28:16, Job 28:19); but now, when Jerusalem is destroyed, they have become regarded as earthenware pots, i.e., treated as if they were utterly worthless, as "a work of the hands of the potter," whereas Israel was a work of the hands of God, Isaiah 64:7. סלא equals סלה, cf. Job 28:16, Job 28:19 to weigh; Pual, be weighed out, as an equivalent.

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